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Bronzino, Agnolo [Italian, 1503-1572] 

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Bronzino, Agnolo [Italian, 1503-1572]


[ Biography | 16th Century Artists ]
portrait

Agnolo Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo) (1503-72), was a Florentine Mannerist painter, the pupil and adopted son of Pontormo, who introduced his portrait as a child into his painting Joseph in Egypt (National Gallery, London).

The origin of his nickname is uncertain, but possibly derived from his having a dark complexion. Bronzino was deeply attached to Pontormo and his style was heavily indebted to his master. However, Bronzino lacked the emotional intensity that was such a characteristic of Pontormo's work and excelled as a portraitist rather than a religious painter. He was court painter to Duke Cosimo I de Medici for most of his career, and his work influenced the course of European court portraiture for a century. Cold, cultured, and unemotionally analytical, his portraits convey a sense of almost insolent assurance.

Bronzino was also a poet, and his most personal portraits are perhaps those of other literary figures (Laura Battiferri, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, c.1560). He was less successful as a religious painter, his lack of real feeling leading to empty, elegant posturing, as in The Martyrdom of S. Lorenzo (S. Lorenzo, Florence, 1569), in which almost every one of the extraordinarily contorted poses can be traced back to Raphael or to Michelangelo. whom Bronzino idolized. It is the type of work that got Mannerism a bad name. Bronzino's skill with the nude was better deployed in the celebrated Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time (National Gallery, London), which conveys strong feelings or eroticism under the pretext of a moralizing allegory. His other major works include the design of a series of tapestries on The Story of Joseph for the Palazzo Vecchio.

He was a much respected figure who took a prominent part in the activities of the Accademia del Disegno, of which he was a founder member in 1563. His pupils included Alessandro Allori, who — in a curious mirroring of his own early career — was also his adopted son.

The image accompanying this article is a detail from Bronzino's, “Descent of Christ Into Limbo,” painted in 1552 and in the Refectory in Santa Croce (see image, below). This fresco includes many likenesses of Florentines contemporary to the artist. The figure in the foreground in blue strongly resembles Eleonora of Toledo. Also depicted are other Renaissance painters, Pontormo and Bacchiacca, literary writer, Gelli, and a self portrait of Bronzino himself (Gaston, Robert W. “Iconography and Portraiture in Bronzino's ‘Christ in Limbo.’” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 27 (1983): 41-72.).

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